Australian Strategic Policy Institute
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is a military and strategic policy think tank based in Canberra. Its main function is to give an academic, serious patina to dubiously sourced propaganda, for then for it to spread further in politics and corporate media. It is most noted for being one of the main "serious sources" for many of the claims regarding China and 'Chinese influence' dominating Western corporate media.
Another mission of the think tank is to lobby for increased weapons spending, by a fortuitous coincidence from the very weapons producers who sponsor its activities.
“ASPI has played a leading role – some would say, the leading role – in driving Australia’s mendacious and self-destructive and often absurd China-bashing campaign. The current Coalition government, perhaps the most right-wing and incompetent in Australia’s recent history, has relied upon the ASPI to disseminate Washington’s desperate strategic policies, into which much of the Australian political class, along with its intelligence and military structures, has been integrated.””
John Pilger (2016) 
- 1 History
- 2 Funding
- 3 Getting money from prison labour
- 4 China Propaganda Campaign
- 5 Integrity Initiative
- 6 Controlling social media feeds
- 7 Other
- 8 Mainstream Criticism
- 9 Sponsors
- 10 Rating
- 11 References
ASPI was first established in 2001 under Prime Minister John Howard. ASPI's inaugural director was Hugh White, who served as director from 2001 to 2004. White was succeeded by Major General (retired) Peter Abigail in 2005, and from 2012 Peter Jennings.
The Australian Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, set up to monitor Chinese government influence in Australia, ironically captures some more recent sources of ASPI funding, including NATO, the US State Department and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Military-Industrial Congressional Complex sponsorship
ASPI works on evaluating the military budget, a key part of its output. Former director Hugh White believed, when he was in charge until 2004, that this budget evaluation was incompatible with taking cash from the companies the military buys things from, but this anti-corruption safeguard has since been eliminated. In 2019 the institute received only 43% of its funding $9 million total budget from the Australian Government.
Paid Influence from Foreign Governments
ASPI also received nearly $450,000 from the US State Department. And there are contributions from other foreign governments, many being strategic competitors to China, including the Embassy of Japan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (that is, Taiwan). Other interesting sponsors are the spooky Institute for War and Peace Reporting and the even more spooky MITRE Corporation USA.
Getting money from prison labour
In early 2021, Defense for Children (DCI) took the ASPI to court in New South Wales. DCI’s lawsuit charges that ASPI may have been receiving funds from a number of weapons manufacturers and government agencies in the US and UK profiting from prison labor, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems. According to Pepe Escobar, "sources that prefer to remain anonymous insist ASPI exercised serious pressure directly on DCI’s headquarters in Geneva to drop the case."
China Propaganda Campaign
ASPI's influence comes partly from a deep engagement with the media. Executive director, Peter Jennings stated "One of our focuses has been to make a more prominent debate around national security issues, in the same way we discuss economic issues."
The growing funding over the last few years has allowed the establishment of a range of new initiatives, including a growing focus on China through the formation of its International Cyber Policy Centre in 2013, which today employs most of its China-focused analysts. The centre's output is impressive: 
Its Picking Flowers, Making Honey report charted the Chinese military's collaboration with foreign universities including many in Australia. Its findings informed an virulently McCarthyist episode,"Red Flag", of the state channel ABC's prime-time investigative magazine Four Corners.
And another, on China's technology giants, has been regularly consulted by the Western press to give an angle on state censorship and control as exercised on Chinese social networks.
ASPI's Alex Joske was a bylined contributor to Channel Nine's coverage of alleged Chinese defector Wang Liqiang, whose revelations drew fervent attention in the recent Taiwanese election. Joske's role was conducted in the course of his employment as a casual researcher by influential The Age newspaper, but dove-tailed and intersected with his work at ASPI.<
- Full article: Integrity Initiative/Cluster/Australia
- Full article: Integrity Initiative/Cluster/Australia
A frequent participant in ASPI panels, Greg Sheridan, was mentioned in the Integrity Initiative leaks, where Chris Donnelly and Keith Sargent went to a "closed door meeting on Australia’s perception of the Chinese threat", a speech held by Greg Sheridan.
Building Integrity Initiative in Asia?
From February 2019 to March 2021, through a project supported by DFAT and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the International Cyber Policy Centre is promoting international cyber norms and confidence building in the ASEAN region via in-country training workshops. In April 2019, the centre held the first workshop of its kind in Kuala Lumpur, bringing together 18 representatives from 10 countries.
In 2020, Twitter announced that, on the ASPI’s recommendations, it had shut down more than 170,000 accounts that praised China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, generally “antagoniz[ed]” the U.S., or amplified “deceptive narratives” about the Hong Kong protests (i.e., ones that did not agree with the State Department or the 44% of Hong Kongers who supported the movement).
In 2021, Twitter revealed in a blog post that ASPI had helped identify thousands of accounts that “amplified Chinese Communist Party narratives” around China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, accounts that now had been permanently deleted. Neither ASPI nor Twitter claimed that the deleted accounts were fake or operated by the Chinese state, strongly implying that merely agreeing with Beijing or questioning Western narratives was reason enough to be banned.
Former NSW premier Bob Carr has accused it of pumping out a “one-sided, pro-American view of the world”. Veteran foreign editor Tony Walker has slammed its "dystopian worldview" which "leaves little room for viewing China as a potential partner". "It lacks integrity and brings shame to Australia," says retired former DFAT chief and ex-Qantas CEO John Menadue. “I see it as very much the architect of the China threat theory in Australia”, adds ex-ambassador to China turned Beijing-based business consultant Geoff Raby. In the Australian Senate, Labor's Kim Carr criticized it heavily, thundering about "hawks intent on fighting a new cold war".
|Lockheed||"Nobody is doing a better job of arming the world than Lockheed-Martin"|
- https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2019-10/ASPI%20AR_18_19_acc.pdf?KUIH5L_aiOUu4hm96FaCXmN2cqEv5Do8= |ASPI annual report 2018-19 (pdf) p21
- https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2019-10/ASPI%20AR_18_19_acc.pdf?KUIH5L_aiOUu4hm96FaCXmN2cqEv5Do8= |ASPI annual report 2018-19 (pdf)